Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Reader Question: Kayaking

A reader question: 

We have a few questions for the community.  First, looking for recommendations for a kayak. Quality, durability, stability, float worthiness are some of the criteria we seek.  We are looking at using these in large lakes, not oceans. Does anyone know of a reputable second-hand kayak dealer?

Finally, if you are a kayaker, how do you haul the blasted thing around?  We both have Volvo sedans so there's not much practicality in them.  I am thinking of finding an old wagon or pick up—it could practically serve other country life purposes as well—but otherwise sort of at a loss.  Not looking to invest a large some in a vehicle that will be used sporadically.

Thanks for your thoughts and ideas.


  1. Hello. Great topic and good questions. I have a Hobie Outback kayak and love it. I fish from it multiple times a week, including tournament fishing. I think one of the biggest questions of which kayak is best is what are you wanting to do with it? If you are looking to fish, I would highly recommend a Hobie (or Bonafide if you want one thats made in the US). If you are looking for something more recreational, I would recommend looking at Ascend, Nu Canoe or Old Town . The next topic to consider would be propulsion (paddle/pedal/motor). I love my pedal drive because it keeps my hands free to fish. Stability was critical for me as well, so I went with a wider kayak.
    Regarding the transportation question, I drive a Jeep Gladiator truck and have a bed extender on it for hauling the 'yak around. I have seen people with cars using their roof racks, but they typically remove all their gear before lifting the kayak up for transport. If you are comfortable driving with a trailer, there are several kayak models (Malone or OTWI) on the market now that are reasonably priced. There was a guy at my last kayak tournament that drove a Volvo with a trailer. You can also put a lockable gear box on a trailer that can store paddles, safety gear, life jacket/PFD, etc.
    Most kayak dealers will have demo days where you can try out different models on local lakes. I would recommend taking advantage of those opportunities. Any dealer worth their weight will take their time with you, talking with you about what you are looking to do on the water, and walking you through the pros & cons of each model they sell.
    Good luck in your search, and if you are looking to fish, tight lines!!

  2. My partner and I got into kayaking a few years ago. We live near a wonderfully expansive and scenic stretch of the Willamette River and it's usually an ideal place to paddle. Sometimes there are people zooming by in jet skis and speedboats, which presents a safety hazard, but for the most part it's a peaceful body of water.
    We drive to and fro with our kayaks strapped to the roof rack of my Subaru Forester. Any car with a roof rack with "J" kayak stands should do fine. At times, I do wish I had a pickup truck -- it would be easier to just throw 'em in the truck bed and be done with it, but it's not too troublesome to strap the boats securely to the rack.
    We got our kayaks at Dick's Sporting Goods on an end-of-season sale, so they were remarkably inexpensive. The kayaks are just a basic 10' model from Pelican. They're not high-performance, but they cut through the water quite well. Dick's had the whole kit with paddles and life jackets, etc.
    Portland has several watersports and paddle shops around town, some of which offer an afternoon kayak class. We're glad we did that first: It proved quite helpful to us to have a better understanding of getting in and out, how to handle it if you get swamped by a boat's wake, how to control the boat efficiently, all that sort of thing. I'd strongly recommend it. I'd also suggest getting a dry bag to hold onto things like keys, phones, wallets, etc. Also, bring plenty of water -- it's a good workout.
    I hope you find just the right gear for you and enjoy the paddling!

  3. Agree with the comment above that any car with a roof rack and a workable attachment can tote a pair of kayaks. It might be nice to have a wagon for the paddles. Also, it’s straightforward online to research kayaks appropriate for paddling on lakes, as opposed to whitewater or sea kayaks.

    Don’t skimp on flotation devices - a good-fitting, utilitarian vest makes like more comfortable, as well as safe. We like NRS, but there are several good options.

  4. I have 3 available in NJ that I use in Bay Head on Barnegat Bay. All are sit on tops that track straight when paddled.

  5. We have a couple of traditional kayaks, so I have no experience with them, but I've seen inflatable kayaks that could be an option for you.

  6. There are removable roof racks available for sedans.

  7. I would call L.L. Bean and ask to speak with a sales clerk who specializes in kayaks. Old Town Canoe and kayak would be another great option.

  8. Whatever you decide, try kayaking first by renting. Some find kayaks difficult to get into and out of, less fun than imagined to paddle, steer and maneuver up to a float or shoreline. And for some it's painful after a while, especially if they have a bad back, and so on. Good luck.

  9. Thule Hull-a-Port kayak racks fit well on even our little CrossTrek.

    Kayaks, go to Bean and have them help you. We have two now and the consultation was well worth the effort.

  10. We have been very happy with our Crescent tandem kayak, made in Carrollton, Georgia. Ours is very wide, very stable, and has been outfitted for fishing. (Normally I'm the "trolling motor" paddling to the best spots as my husband fishes.) The trade off to all that stability and length is that it's heavy, and quite the challenge to get it atop our tall vehicle. But it has been a joy to paddle the local rivers and lakes. We chose orange for visibility on the lake.

    I agree with the other commenters. Go spend a day kayaking with some of your local outfitters to get an idea of what you want. Ours is a sit-on, which is different in many ways from a sit-in. You need to spend some time in each to decide which you prefer.

    Best of luck! Any day on the water is a good day!

  11. The best kayak for your application is a 12 foot kayak. The longer a kayak is, the straighter it will track. That’s why sea kayaks are 16-18 feet long. They track straighter and glide farther with each stroke. Short kayaks swing side to side with each stroke. A 12 footer is a good compromise. Also, don’t skimp on the paddle. A good paddle is a joy. A bad one can make you hate the sport. Buy a kayak made by a kayak company, not a plastics manufacturer. Good companies are Current Designs, Wilderness Systems, Dagger, and Perception. They only make kayaks and have good boat designs (good hull shapes). Kayaks are not just pointed plastic vessels with a top deck. They are boats….just like sailboats. A good design is important.

  12. Old Town, and L.L.Bean are go to sources!

    1. I like Old Town, but their plastic is heavy (though very durable). It might be heavy to load on a rooftop alone, although I used to load a fiberglass sea kayak on a roof using a stepladder for one end as I lifted the other. Where there’s a will there’s a way.


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